Essay / Misc.

Ten Books that Influenced C.S. Lewis

The Christian Century, that venerable old journal of what Christianity looks like from the mainline denominations, asked C. S. Lewis in 1962 for a top ten list of books that had exerted a formative influence on him. I’m currently re-reading Wordsworth’s Prelude, and had a vague memory that it was on Lewis’ list. So I looked up the list, and here it is.

1. George MacDonald, Phantastes
2. G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man
3. Virgil, The Aeneid
4. George Herbert, The Temple
5. William Wordsworth, The Prelude
6. Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy
7. Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy
8. Boswell’s Life of Johnson
9. Charles Williams, Descent into Hell
10. Arthur James Balfour, Theism and Humanism

Some of the entries are no surprise: MacDonald and Chesterton, of course. Some are classics of western civilization: Virgil and Boethius. Some are Oh So British: Herbert, Boswell. Wordsworth goes nicely with Rudolf Otto’s book about the human experience of God’s otherness (the holy, which fills us with a sense of awe that terrifies and fascinates). That leaves one spot for Lewis’ personal friend, the preternaturally eerie Charles Williams, and one final spot for “a book too little read,” Balfour’s Theism and Humanism. Like the rest of the world, you are now saying, “Who? What?” and can go check Amazon to see this early 20th century apologetics book back in print as THE BOOK THAT INFLUENCED C.S. LEWIS. While you’re there, note that people who bought Theism also bought other books from Lewis’ list. Hey, the list may be a little idiosyncratic and dated, but reading everything C. S. Lewis tells you to read is not a bad stimulus for a continuing education project.

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